Gerald glanced at him, and saw him, his suave, golden coloured body with the black hair growing fine and freely, like tendrils, and his limbs like smooth plant-stems. He was so healthy and well-made, why did he make one ashamed, why did one feel repelled? Why should Gerald even dislike it, why did it seem to him to detract from his own dignity. Was that all a human being amounted to? So uninspired! thought Gerald.
Birkin suddenly appeared in the doorway, in white pyjamas and wet hair, and a towel over his arm. He was aloof and white, and somehow evanescent.
`There's the bath-room now, if you want it,' he said generally, and was going away again, when Gerald called:
`I say, Rupert!'
`What?' The single white figure appeared again, a presence in the room.
`What do you think of that figure there? I want to know,' Gerald asked.
Birkin, white and strangely ghostly, went over to the carved figure of the negro woman in labour. Her nude, protuberant body crouched in a strange, clutching posture, her hands gripping the ends of the band, above her breast.
`It is art,' said Birkin.
`Very beautiful, it's very beautiful,' said the Russian.
They all drew near to look. Gerald looked at the group of men, the Russian golden and like a water- plant, Halliday tall and heavily, brokenly beautiful, Birkin very white and indefinite, not to be assigned, as he looked closely at the carven woman. Strangely elated, Gerald also lifted his eyes to the face of the wooden figure. And his heart contracted.
He saw vividly with his spirit the grey, forward-stretching face of the negro woman, African and tense, abstracted in utter physical stress. It was a terrible face, void, peaked, abstracted almost into meaninglessness by the weight of sensation beneath. He saw the Pussum in it. As in a dream, he knew her.
`Why is it art?' Gerald asked, shocked, resentful.
`It conveys a complete truth,' said Birkin. `It contains the whole truth of that state, whatever you feel about it.'
`But you can't call it high art,' said Gerald.
`High! There are centuries and hundreds of centuries of development in a straight line, behind that carving; it is an awful pitch of culture, of a definite sort.'
`What culture?' Gerald asked, in opposition. He hated the sheer African thing.
`Pure culture in sensation, culture in the physical consciousness, really ultimate physical consciousness, mindless, utterly sensual. It is so sensual as to be final, supreme.'
But Gerald resented it. He wanted to keep certain illusions, certain ideas like clothing.
`You like the wrong things, Rupert,' he said, `things against yourself.'
`Oh, I know, this isn't everything,' Birkin replied, moving away.
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